Board of Ed. proposes $1.6 million increase for 2016-17 budget request

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(From Left to right) Kate Kutash, David Gioiello, Dr. Darlisa Ritter, Tom Minotti, and Chairman Mark Holden are shown discussing possible cuts during a budget workshop. – Aaron Berkowitz photo

After months of tweaking and planning, the Board of Education has finalized its proposal for a $1.6 million increase in the 2016-2017 budget, which would bump it up 2.37% to $71.1 million.

“We are trying to take a balanced approach,” said the city’s new Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet in regards to his draft of the budget. “I think this budget represents a balance between adding staff so that we are making some improvements to the district, and at the same time taking into consideration the local economic climate and the burden that taxpayers face.”

The proposal was based on the input of board members, consideration of the Governor’s recent announcement of possible budget cuts and layoffs, as well as the maintaining of low taxes under the Mayor’s agenda, but most importantly to fulfill the needs of the 4,900 students in the district, according to Clouet.

During the meeting Clouet, amended that the budget also include an additional $80,000 for second and third graders classroom technology, which brings the total to $71,117,310 for the proposal.

The $1.6 million increase would also include 8.5 new staff positions. Most of the new positions are in the field of special education and teachers of English as a Second language. There were no new administrative positions in the plan, following some member’s push for  adding 1 or 2 assistant principals to the staff to split among several schools.

Board member Tom Minotti said he is in support of the draft proposal but he is disappointed to see that administrative positions were cut from the budget Clouet is presenting to the Mayor.

“I think there’s definitely a need for a principal. We were criticized for not hiring from within, but now we don’t even have the opportunity. The budget that Chris drew up is sound and represents the needs of the district, but we could have used at least one assistant principal,” said Minotti.

Some board members were more pleased with the proposal than others. Dr. Darlissa Ritter and Kathy Yolish were the only two board members who opposed the draft of the budget. Dr. Ritter said

“The FOI states that I have 24 hours to review the document and I would like to use that time,” said Ritter.

Board member Arlene liscinsky said wasn’t completely satisfied with the budget and the extra time Ritter requested would go to waste as she predicts the proposed budget will be shot down anyways, bringing them back to re strategize and make more cuts.

“The budget we are passing will not stay the same,” said Liscinsky. “…My feeling is I would like to see the budget be a little bit higher. That’s my thought process… If they feel they can do this then I am going to support them, but if they can’t then of course I will hold them responsible.”

Dr. Clouet said he would have much rather have had the decision be unanimous, but he had a goal of trying to show the Board of Aldermen that the Board of Education is trying to work with them.

“I’m hopeful to have a good dialogue with them come up with a budget that best serves our students,” said Clouet. “I respect the fact that there are 9 board members and that sometimes there will be differences in opinions. Some of them are new that are just learning how the system works, so I look forward to working with them in the future as well.”

Mayor Lauretti’s response to the budget proposal is due in March.

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